The book succeeds as an encomium to Brooks and his band of pioneering brothers, but misses an opportunity to excel as either...

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FRATERNITY

A tribute to the cadre of black students who arrived at the College of the Holy Cross in the fall of 1968, and to the professor who recruited them.

In the mid-’60s, Holy Cross typically admitted only two black students per year. Convinced that this ethnic homogeneity risked consigning his college to irrelevance in a changing era, the Rev. John Brooks, a professor of theology, set out to recruit promising black students for the class entering in the fall of 1968. Brooks proved to be an extraordinary talent scout. His incoming group of 20 included Edward Jones, who would win a Pulitzer Prize in 2004; Edward Jenkins, who would play for the Miami Dolphins; Theodore Wells, today one of the nation’s premier trial attorneys; and a sophomore transfer student named Clarence Thomas. In this workmanlike debut, Bloomberg BusinessWeek contributor Brady follows this group of courageous young men as they adapted to the challenges of college life in an overwhelmingly white institution and city, and as the college adapted to their arrival. Brooks was a persistent mentor and advocate for these students and their successors in later classes; he insisted that some adaptation was necessary, as the black students “didn’t have the role models in the classroom or the easy comfort of being in the majority.” He argued for extra consideration but not lower standards, encouraging his colleagues to strive “to understand where skin color made a difference, and where it did not.” The actual conflicts that arose as a result of the influx of black students are familiar: demands for more black faculty and students, black studies classes, more scholarship aid, separate black living quarters, a disciplinary process more sensitive to the concerns of students of color. Brady narrates the college’s navigation through these controversies without much further analysis. Similarly, her portraits of various students ably describe their personal struggles without considering which racial issues they confronted may have been unique to the times and which are of persisting relevance.

The book succeeds as an encomium to Brooks and his band of pioneering brothers, but misses an opportunity to excel as either biography or timely history.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-52474-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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